Lovin' time at Coon Hollow Farm

Lovin' time at Coon Hollow Farm
Our Olde English "Babydoll" Sheep and their lambs

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wonder Dog versus Bear, and the winner...

...was the Wonder Dog! In the past 22 years we have lived here, we have never had to contend with a bear. Sadly loss of habitat, a dry summer and them learning to become habituated to humans all are a factor in the recent issues our town is having with bears. My neighbors had a bear hit one of their bee hives, but he was relentless and continued to be a nuisance, leaving us in great fear that our hives and animals were next! On Friday, my neighbor notified me that the bear was back. I have studied wildlife for over 20 years and put those theories into action. I have never actually contended with a bear before in my wildlife career but protecting what is yours kicks in and off Autumn the Wonder Dog and I ran after the bear, razing it until Autumn put it up a tree! This dog is amazing and the best tool we all have around here in protecting the livestock. The picture above is moments before she treed the bear! The last we saw of this bear, after 2 crazy women and a dog ran it off was it's ass end high tailing it out of here! It feared for it's life!

I fired up the smoker and harvested what honey I could pull. So many beekeepers have lost their hard worked honey to bears this year and I was not going to have that happen!

We had many frames like this one, that was filled with honey, capped and ready to pull. There are some frames that need more time. So far so good, no sign of the bear. Last we saw of it was it running off into the woods with a crazy terrier mix fast on it's behind heading North!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just enough!

Have you ever  had a project where you have had just enough? This happened to me the other day! I was crocheting a project and had just enough to finish and this was just after a friend at Fiber Arts had the same thing happen to her! It's always nice to have just enough!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What to do? What to do?

What to do, what to do with all those extra small balls of yarn? Make hair ties or wristlets!

I have so many small balls of wool, alpaca, angora bunny and mohair yarns. Not enough for a big project but just enough to make small projects.

Simply crochet around the hair tie, chain a few rows around and you get...

a bunch of beautiful hair ties or wristlets. We are getting ready for the New England Fiber Festival in November and working away at having a lot of different products. Find us at the Festival!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Grooming a Diva!

Grooming the rabbits is a hard enough task, but "Peachy" makes it really challenging. She's such a beautiful girl, she takes my breath away she is so pretty, but then when it's time to groom, I dread it. Here she is before...

and after, with much fighting and carrying on, she is groomed just before the weather gets cold.

She netted about a half a pound of wool! So soft and amazing. She may be pretty but she's a tough cookie!!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Rendering beeswax the right way!

Over the years I have tried different way to render wax. Melting it, trying to filter it and then I saw a video online on a bee site that changed the way I do it, and it has made it 100% more efficient!
I purchased this small crockpot at a tag sale for a couple dollars.

Gathered some cheesecloth...

and some paper towels.

Some wax I had attempted to clean last year.

Then placing the paper towels across the crockpot, then laying the cheesecloth over that, and then placed the wax on top of that.

I then placed the top on and turned on the heat and waited.

When the wax was melted, I poured it into these ice trays I bought in a dollar store. They are the perfect mold to make quilting wax!

This is the finished product! Perfectly clean wax, packaged and ready to go. I love this process!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Weaving a Dream

Some time back I warped this lap loom with some strong thick single ply alpaca, but that was where it ended until I had a dream about a black and white wall hanging, woke up and put it on the loom!

I started with some black mohair I had spun, putting it in the center, just like in my dream...

and then filled it in with the alpaca I had warped with.
It was a lot of work, back and forth, but it took the same form that the one in my dream had.

Up close of the weft, and yes it is as soft as it looks!

The finished product! Just like in my dream!!! I can honestly say, I wove a dream!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Improvising for results!

When even the most conventional and immediate tools at your disposal just aren't meeting your needs, you can always improvise and I did just that. I needed to make a small cord for a project I am working on and all my Lucets were just not small enough. I wanted a strong but small cordage about a foot long. I thought of pictures I had seen where the colonists used forks made of bone or wood to make their cordage for their uniforms so I went to the cabinet and got a fork!

I broke off the two center pieces and began wrapping my homemade "lucet" to make my fine cord.

Here is my finished project to scale with a penny! Just what I needed to complete my latest project! I am so pleased with the results, I used hand spun single ply alpaca. It is soft and strong, just right for what I need!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Creativity is not always what we plan

Today I set out to make a batch of my vegetable based soap. I went to a farmers market yesterday and there was a soap maker there giving me her pitch for her tallow based soap. I prefer a no animal fat soap, I just don't like the oily residue it leaves on the skin and I don't want an animal to die so I can be clean.

So as I was making my batch of soap, I had some scents in mind, Lavender, Lavender and Vanilla and I even had Clove oil out. I knew I would figure one out. Next thing I knew I was pouring vanilla oil into the batch, went over to my herb shelves and pulled out some real vanilla beans...
and split them open and scooped out the seeds. I then added them to the soap giving it an amazing scent!!! My kitchen smells like vanilla beans and I love it. Can't wait to see how this soap cures and smells.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Positive bee vibes!

This has been one of the worst years in our beekeeping history. We lost all our hives except the strong one we call the "Beast". We have struggled with varroe mites, wax moths, hive beetles and mold. We have come down to the fact that we need to trim some trees back because it is just too shady where they are. The three hives to the left (two are Kisha's) are thriving but the hives to the right have perished. We will take a different approach next year, mainly getting the trees trimmed back!
Today I inspected our last strong remaining hive. It is thriving with so much brood and honey, above is just a picture of the many frames I found. This one is full of capped brood (baby bees). The open cells already have eggs in them!

The girls were so busy they could have cared less what I was doing. The bee with the big eyes is a drone. He is the size of a small Chihuahua!!!

I found a few frames of incredibly capped honey...

and then there she was!!! The queen we have dubbed "The Beast"!!! She is such a hard working queen and has produced a strong hive of very healthy bees!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Working with linen

As some may know, I love the colonial era. Some say I should have been born in that time. I prefer the simple life over everything, however modern conveniences like electricity are nice!
Linen was a very common fiber used in the colonial era but the process to harvest it was a daunting one. Linen which is derived from the flax plant would have to be harvested, soaked to break down the stalks and then processed to a fine fiber strand and spun. I met a man a few years back that taught me to spin it and he informed me that it is all in the "spiddle". The fibers don't have hooks like wool and other fibers so you add a little spit to get it to adhere.
The picture above is of a couple of pieces I just made for my colonial garb when I do fairs and attend events.

So with some fine linen that I purchased, no I did not harvest and spin, I made a modesty cloth and a new apron. On to making some other parts of the garb. They wore so many layers then from a shift, stays, petticoats, pocket and short coat. Lots of layers for a fine lady!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer's Wrath

Here in Connecticut we are just not used to hot brutal summers. Tipping the thermometer in the high 90's and 100's are just not common place here. We don't have central air conditioning and gave our big air conditioner to our son and family so keeping cool means retreating to the bedrooms to get cool or lots of showers!

We have done our best to keep the alpacas cool with daily "hosings".

They are quite happy to have the cool hose on them...

and Teddy's face show's it here!

The chickens can be found tucked into cooler places like under the deck...

or under a bush.
The rabbits have spent their summer in the coolness of the basement with fans on them. It is about 10 to 15 degrees cooler in there!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The tools of a farmer

The tools of a farmer can make the difference with success and failure and it can be the simplest thing. In our case it is "Autumn"! I often make post about her, we call her "the wonder dog" for many reason, but mainly for her ability to protect anything and anyone on this property. She even takes on the neighbors chickens as hers to protect. Case in point, on Friday I had had a long week and came home, let the chickens out. I made dinner and sat down for a bit when we heard a commotion in the backyard. Autumn was gone before I even stood up. I came upon feathers everywhere! A fox had come in and grabbed one of our girls. By the time I made my way up there, Autumn was after the fox and the chicken was making her way back down the hill!

Without her I don't know what we would do! She is tenacious, funny and sometimes a very quirky dog. She hogs the bed at night, wakes me in the morning by dropping my slippers on my head. If that doesn't work she begins to bark at me and then jump on me. She rises early in the morning to get her chores done, so should I! She is the best tool these farmers have, learned by many generations of past dogs!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A swarm and a touch of luck

The other day I happened up to the hives and saw this cluster of bees hanging on the side of one of the hives. Having been 8 years a beekeeper I knew this was possibly a small swarm. I quickly ran to get a nuc box and gently brushed them into the box all while looking for the queen but didn't see her.

Yesterday morning I suited up while it was still cool and checked the nuc bees. They were still clustered so I shooked them loose and their she was! She was the queen from the recent hive I had added some bees from an observation hive I take care of. I used the newspaper method and it appeared they took their time chewing through the newspaper and created a queen instead! While checking the other hive for their new queen, I went through all the frames and could not find her. While closing up she landed on the top screen. I quickly flipped it and put her into the hive. So luck was on my side on two levels! What was becoming a discouraging season has quickly changed to a better season with 3 hives growing strong!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cutting and curing soap

A week or more ago I made a fabulous batch of Milk, Honey and Oatmeal soap. The smell was amazing in the house! After making a batch of soap you need it to sit in the mold until it is ready to be removed. It takes at least 24 hours for the saponification process to happen, which is the chemical reaction and neutralization of the fats and acids.

One thing you look for is separation of the soap from the wall of the mold.

I then invert my mold and watch as it gently begins to separate, gently pressing down to allow it to release. Rushing the process can make the soap break so let it go gently and slow.

If all goes right, your soap will slide right out. I cover the counter with wax paper. This helps in clean up and makes less mess.

Here we are, a nicely cured block of soap ready to be cut.

When using any kind of large mold, measure the top, sides and bottom. Weigh your soap batch. This batch is 8 pounds. It is 15" by 10" in diameter and the height of my soap is approx. 2 inches give or take.

I cut it into 2" by 4" bars giving me 30 bars. You can calculate how much you spent on supplies to estimate what you can charge.

Not all your bars will be precise unless you have a soap cutting board. I prefer to cut it by eye. This batch netted me anywhere from close to 3 1/2 to 4 oz bars.

I placed them on a screen drying rack that I acquired a while back. I love to get cool things that are purposeful.

The bars were trimmed up and smoothed and will sit a few more weeks for additional drying and curing.

The bars are layered allowing air to get to them so they can dry nicely.

I place a couple towels over them to keep dust and anything else in this crazy house from them. As I write this, I have a batch in the kitchen underway with one of my favorite scents I invented, Citrus and Honeysuckle!!!